How to Celebrate a Mindful Holiday Season: Livin’ La Vida Yoga

christmas scene

It is coming quickly now. The holiday season countdown has officially started. Each year, we start to see the winter holiday décor and advertisements earlier and earlier, often before Halloween. Sadly, that also can make the comparison game and the urge to gift overload take over our thoughts. I know that as a mama, I often find myself looking at what other parents are doing: homemade gifts, family portraits, yearly newsletter, oh my! Or, more to the point, all the things I am NOT doing this holiday season. Truth is that, while I would love to be the person who looked at the holidays as the best time showcase my creativity/splurge on my loved ones/or be the social butterfly that I once was, all that comparison is exhausting and so is the effort to do it all. Keeping the practice of yoga in mind keeps me from stressing out and allows me to enjoy the last few weeks of the year.

Sure, a Down Dog may not be an appropriate way to practice yoga for a company party, but that does not mean that your practice is not with you when you need it most. Here are a few ways to keep you in the holiday spirit with yoga off the mat:

  • Ahimsa: Non-violence, of course we automatically think of this yama (first of the eight limbs of the principles of yoga) as not hurting another living being, but what if you thought of non-violence towards yourself? Don’t over-spend on holiday gifts, an act of violence against your bank account as well as yourself because of all the hard work it took for you to earn that money. Instead, make a list of people who you would like to give gifts or perhaps talk to family and friends about doing a gift exchange, allowing you to buy one really great gift that you can put love and thought into.
  • Pratyahara: Turning inward, you can also think of this as control of the senses (fifth of the eight limbs of yoga) to help when the holiday party invites start rolling in. Taking a moment to reflect on your time and schedule before you over-commit to holiday parties—something that in my experience can easily turn you into a Scrooge before the actual holidays! This pause to reflect can also help while you are attending parties as well. You can use this idea of pause and reflect to prevent drinking or eating to much when you are out, I often use this pause to sip a glass of water. I pause to sip my water and reflect, “Am I drinking to keep pace with others? Am I eating because I am hungry or out of obligation?” These question often help me stay sober and prevent me from overeating or going crazy on sugary snacks. Turning inwards can help keep you in check when you feel like you may get crazy.
  • Lastly, Samadhi: Bliss, (the last of the eight limbs) is really what the holidays should be about, the joy of life. We can get carried away with all the things we should be doing like homemade gifts, baking gluten-free and vegan goodies for our offices or our children’s school parties, throwing neighborhood caroling parties, or any number of “shoulds.” These little bits of comparison steal our moments of joy. They take us out of the moment and take away from us. Reminding yourself that joy is what you will feel before you walk into the door of your family holiday party or when you are up to midnight wrapping presents for your children. You are a part of what makes this time joyous. You bring someone else, Samadhi.

To keep this the “most wonderful time of the year,” I also keep my physical practice slow, mindful, and there is always a lot of gratitude. I do a daily Metta, or loving-kindness, meditation to wish those I love and all beings everywhere to be happy, to be healthy, and to be blessed with peace. I strongly feel like this last little piece is what makes my holidays so wonderful. That holiday cheer is best when shared with others and when I keep my yoga practice with me off the mat the cheer lasts a lot longer.

LizLiz Vartanian is a yoga teacher, writer, and mom living in Austin, TX. She teaches restorative yoga offering yogis a chance to leave class feeling energized and supported with a side of community as students are often surprised with home cooked goodies after long relaxing Savasanas. She is the co-creator of eight limb//life, a course encouraging everyone to discover their practice of yoga in all aspects of life. When not teaching yoga, Liz can be found with her family where there is coffee, good friends, toy trucks, and a body of water!